Around 2,000 people were injected with fake Covid-19 vaccines in Mumbai, police said Friday, and another 500 people — some of whom were disabled — may have been harmed in a second major city.
Following a devastating pandemic surge in April and May, the Indian government made vaccinations free. This week, vaccination rates skyrocketed.
Around 2,000 people who thought they were being vaccinated were instead injected with a saline solution, according to Mumbai police.
Police said at a news conference that ten people had been arrested, including two doctors from a private hospital in the financial district, with the scammers targeting residents of an upscale housing complex in one case.
Vishwas Patil, the joint commissioner for the law and order division, said, “We (then) discovered that this syndicate had organized eight more camps.”
The accused “fraudulently obtained” 1.24 million rupees ($16,700) in cash, according to police.
Meanwhile, police in Kolkata have detained a man posing as a civil servant with a master’s degree in genetics who allegedly ran up to eight bogus vaccination clinics.
At least 250 disabled and transgender people were injected at one location, according to police, and nearly 500 people may have received fake injections across the city.
The seized vials were falsely labelled as containing the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine, marketed in India as Covishield, according to Kolkata official Atin Ghosh.
“The Covishield label was discovered to be stuck over another label, that of Amikacin Sulphate 500 mg, an antibiotic used to treat bacterial infections of the urinary tract, bones, brain, lungs, and blood,” Ghosh told AFP.
The scam was discovered after Mimi Chakraborty, an actress and politician, became suspicious after receiving a shot at one of the camps to raise awareness.
The suspect was found with two fake ID cards, one for an information ministry official and the other for a municipal commissioner. His car was adorned with stickers from the Kolkata government.
Many of those who had been injected, according to Debashis Barui, a Kolkata health official, is now “panicking” about the possible side effects.
“In the event of an emergency, civic authorities will set up medical camps in the area to care for those who have received fake shots,” Barui told AFP.
Ruma Sikdar, 35, one of them, said she had been feeling drowsy and had pain in her arm.
“What concerns me is how to get the real dose before the third wave,” the housewife explained.
“We didn’t think this could happen at a time when the world is fighting a pandemic,” said Debjit Majumdar, another student who received the fake jab.